Christian representatives invited to participate in the ‘Conference on the protection of peaceful co-existence’ boycotted the conference protesting against the failure of the government to take meaningful steps in protecting Christians.
“What need is there in participating in meetings like this and repeating the formulas that give the title to the conference if then one does not see initiatives and changes in concrete terms?” said Chaldean Patriarch Raphael Louis I to the local media.
The conference was organised under the patronage of the Presidency of the Parliament and of the Sunni Council for religious facilities (Waqf) on February 7, 2016 and saw the participation of politicians, diplomats and ministers of Iraqi government.
The conference was also boycotted by Yazidi and Mandaean representatives who were also of the view that such conferences were restricted to mere rhetorical talks and failed to bring out a practical outcome.
In recent days, the Chaldean Patriarch had launched an appeal to government authorities and political and religious leaders to denounce the continuing legal discrimination and sectarian bullying suffered by Christians. “We met with government officials, and paid a visit to some of the Islamic religious authorities to talk about what we have in common, with regards to our faiths and the life we share in this land. During these meetings, we assured our loyalty to Iraq, which is our country, and we do not seek revenge, we want to live in peace with all Iraqis.
Unfortunately, none of their promises have become reality,” Patriarch added
The Christians of Iraq are considered to be one of the oldest continuous Christian communities in the world. The vast majority are indigenous Eastern Aramaic-speaking ethnic Assyrians, descendants of the ancient Mesopotamians.
Christians in Iraq are not allowed to proselytise, especially to Muslims. Muslims, who change their faith to
Christians, are subject to societal and official pressure, which may lead to death penalty. However, there are cases in which a Muslim will adopt the Christian faith, secretly declaring his/her apostasy. In effect, they are practising Christians, but legally Muslims; thus, the statistics of Iraqi Christians does not include Muslim converts to Christianity.
Christians in Iraq have faced a lot of persecution for their faith. In 2007, Chaldean Catholic priest Fr. Ragheed Aziz Ganni and sub deacons Basman Yousef Daud, Wahid Hanna Isho, and Gassan Isam Bidawed were killed in the ancient city of Mosul. Six months later, the body of Paulos Faraj Rahho, archbishop of Mosul, was found buried near Mosul.
He was kidnapped on 29 February 2008 when his bodyguards and driver were killed.
In 2010, reports emerged in Mosul of people being stopped in the streets, asked for their identity cards, and shot if they had a first or last name indicating Assyrian or Christian origin.